From The News Times, Sept 4, 2011

 

Photographer trades lens for the written word

Nancy DeFelice, Contributing Writer
Published 05:25 p.m., Saturday, September 3, 2011

When it comes to second acts -- and third and fourth acts -- nobody does it better than Garry Camp Burdick.

At 78 years of age, the Southbury resident, who once claimed he worked only 90 days a year during his glory days as a commercial photographer, has written a book, "West to Big Water: A Civil War Aftermath," self-published through iUniverse.

Burdick's successful career in photography reads like a `Who's Who of the Art World.' His iconic photographs of his morning with Norman Rockwell in the painter's studio were exhibited at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and are now part of its permanent collection.

As a young photographer at the Famous Artists School of Westport, he rubbed elbows with some of the 20th century's greatest talents, including photographers Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Alfred Eisenstaedt, not to mention "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling and illustrators Albert Dorne and Bernie Fuchs.

"I've never been rich money-wise, but rich and lucky in life," said Burdick, who also taught photography at Western Connecticut State University for 14 years.

One has to wonder what feeds the artistic curiosity of this charming artist and keeps the creative gleam in his eyes twinkling.

What drives him to keep creating instead of resting on his impressive laurels and simply tending to his prize-winning garden at his Heritage Village home?

Perhaps the dedication in his book says it best: "I dedicate this book to my grandchildren, who I encourage to read endlessly and write each day as a habit."

Burdick's latest venture is also a family affair. His wife, Brenda, took the cover photo of her husband in a cowboy hat. His kids also lent a hand: Kim Burdick, a book designer, did the design and layout, and Garrett Burdick of San Francisco created his dad's website.

On a recent sunny morning, Burdick shared the account of his colorful tale of three ex-Union soldiers who... "agreed to meet on the trail west sometime in November. No formality about it, simply a trail, a city, a month, the remaining circumstances would fall into place without blueprint or discussion."

Q: Where did you come up with the idea for the story about the adventures of three ex-Union soldiers traveling west on horseback after the war?

A: "I don't know. It came down like a shade. (Laughs) As a child I grew up with horses. I was always interested in the Civil War. What man isn't? So I put the two together. I wrote it for my grandchildren, so I wanted it to be a little different."

Q: In one of the early scenes, two former Union soldiers are drinking hard cider and eyeing a prized animal at Garry Sherman Camp's horse farm in New Milford, Conn. Fact or fiction?

A: "I had a grandfather who was a horse trader in New Milford (Garry Sherman Camp). Growing up, I heard many stories about going west to buy horses. My grandfather would go to Wyoming with Henry Stuart, who had a horse farm in Bridgewater."

Q: For an artist like yourself, who's had an amazing career in the visual arts, how does writing feed your creativity?

A: "When you write a sentence or paragraph that sings to you, it feels so good. It gets inside your soul and sings to you. I'll write forever. I would also like to encourage people to write."

Q: You mentioned you weren't always interested in writing. What changed your mind?

A: "An English teacher I had more than 50 years ago (at Danbury High School). He did it with the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the way he spoke the words."

Q: You have a nice collection of books from the noted Civil War historian, Shelby Foote, on your shelves. Did you come across anything interesting in your research?

A: "I had sent the Amazon promo to an old friend who is a writer. He had read the sample (excerpt) of the trade (one of the characters makes) with Mr. Camp ($20 dollars and a Sharps rifle for a horse). This fella writes back to me and says the Sharps was after the Civil War. But I had done my research. There were Sharps, though there may not have been many in the hands of Southern soldiers because they were so poor."

Q: Sounds like "West to Big Water" will delight readers of all ages.

A: "What I really want to do is sell it to English teachers. It's a slim book, 80 pages -- a book that's ideal for teenagers because it's not a long book. And there's adventure and a love story. They won't be going home crying, I have to read `Moby Dick.'"

Q: Without spoiling the ending of your book, will your readers be hearing more about the adventures of J.T., R. Garth and Target?

A: "I had to think of a way out. There's got to be a loophole. They haven't gotten to San Francisco yet."

Q: Have you started the sequel yet?

A: I think I'm waiting for winter to write. That discipline, that ability to work hard is missing in me -- no doubt about it." (Laughs)

For more information on "West to Big Water: A Civil War Aftermath," visit www.garrycampburdick.com or Amazon.com.


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